Preparing to Study
- Make time to study. Study time will not “just happen.” There are too many things that can help us waste time. We must set aside time every day to focus on God’s word.
- Have a place to study. An ideal place will have adequate lighting, minimal interruptions, and study resources available.
- Have a plan for study. The plan should be realistic and flexible. It may be the study of an issue or a section of scripture. This will help us focus your study.
- Get help when needed. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help in understanding a passage. Check the answer with other scriptures to make sure that it is true.
- Pray to God for wisdom, James 1:2-8. We are told to pray to God for wisdom for He gives liberally and without reproach. Knowledge comes from study, wisdom is the ability to use what is studied. We cannot hope for wisdom if we do not study. When we study we should not neglect to ask our benevolent God for wisdom.
- Study with an open mind. We must be willing to do what God commands. We must have a “speak Lord, Thy servant hears” attitude. James likens it to a man looking in a mirror, examining what is pleasing and what must be changed.
- Use common sense. The Bible is written in logical language and was written to the common man. We can understand it.
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Approaching the Text
- Rightly divide the word. Realize the difference between the Old and New Testaments, the physical and the spiritual, etc. The context will help determine the difference.
- Read, re-read, ponder, and read again. Take time to just read the scriptures and absorb the ideas. Think about what is being said. Some passages will become clearer later in the day, in a sermon or class where the text is discussed, or much later through increased knowledge.
- Be patient. Some passages are difficult to understand the first couple of times they are read. Be patient with yourself. As you know more you will understand more.
- Look at the context of the passage. Examine the previous paragraphs and sentences to get the gist of the message. Ask the probing questions: Who, to whom, what, where, why, how. Some things are not applicable to us today (i.e., build an ark) but teach important principles.
- Notice the “little” words and connecting words. Little words like “if (then),” “so,” “for,” “and,” “but,” etc. are significant for understanding a passage. Some words like “except,” “therefore,” and “because” link thoughts and arguments. The omission of these words can drastically affect the meaning. This part of study cannot be overemphasized. It is critical to understanding the word of God.